SAN GAETANO
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Rome - A new Order
As soon as Don Gaetano arrived back in Rome, he plunged right into his routine at the hospital of incurables as if he had never been absent. He had been away for five years, meanwhile Don Bonifacio de Colli stood by, imitating him with zeal and generosity. This was how the two got to know each other better, finding that they both had similar ideas about bringing the clergy to a simpler and holier life in line with the gospels. From here the next step was to form a new Order based on traditional commitments to poverty, obedience and chastity, and this soon came to fruition.

Their order of Clerics Regular would combine the spirit of monasticism with the exercises of an active ministry. It would have the primary intention of instituting a communal life among the priests of the Cathedrals and parishes until they could work more efficiently to reform the customs of the clergy and christian laity. These two priests did not realize, given their humility, that they had the power to rebut protestant preaching. At the time all they had in mind was to set off an alarm and be a call to those immersing themselves in this danger.

The first decision had to be taken by someone else. Gianpietro Carafa at that time was Bishop of Theati (Chieti) and Archbishop of Brindisi but resident in Rome (another case of absentee clergy in the affliction of the church of those times), but he did not abuse his position, in fact he suffered because of it, having at heart the welfare of souls. Carafa, future Cardinal and then Pope, was to be the right arm of Don Gaetano and play an important part in the development of the order that was to be born. This new order would be called the Theatine order after the name of the city where Carafa, its first Superior General, had his Diocese. They were clergy bound by vows to restore a proper apostolic life, study the Scriptures and Christian doctrine, devote proper attention to the liturgy, preaching and pastoral care. All of them had deeply regretted the state of the Church of that time, and with ardor they devoted themselves to preaching, to the administration of the sacraments and the careful execution of the Church's rites and liturgy.

Draft rules were written on the base of which were the three well known vows with the added weight of their poverty being total. Don Gaetano went even further than St.Francis of Assisi. The latter recommended his religious to live from the alms they received, but the Franciscans could ask for alms. Gaetano also wanted his religious to live by means of alms, but he forbade them to ask for them. The gifts had to come voluntarily from the people. When the Theatines needed something, they could not ask for it, but had to remain as they were until someone came of one's own volition to supply the need, this having its basis in Christ's words about the birds of the air not sowing, reaping or gathering grains and the Father in heaven feeding them. It was to this poverty article that the Vatican objected when the list of rules was presented for affirmation. To the church authorities it seemed that this group of up and coming young priests were trying to force God's hand to perform miracles for them. In the end, after numerous modifications, the 'brief' of approval was issued. The members of this new Order were granted their wish to declare their vows publicly, live together dressed in clerical habit, call themselves the Order of 'Priests Regular' under Apostolic protection, elect a superior and admit other members of any level to profess their vows after a novitiate of one year.

With another brief to Carafa on the same day, the Pope accepted the former's resignation from both his dioceses but established that Carafa be still called bishop with the capability of exercising pontifical functions but being excused from other obligations not in line with the new state he was going to embrace especially regarding the vow of poverty.

In this way the small group renounced all earthly belongings in front of a notary and accepted a house previously belonging to Bonifacio de Colli as their residence. The foundation took place on the 3rd May, the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, 1524. and the Order was approved on the 24th of the next month by Clement VII in the Brief 'Exponi Nobis'. On 14 Sept., feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Don Gaetano and his companions made a solemn profession before the papal altar of St.Peter's, Rome, and to commemorate his love towards Jesus' Holy Cross, Gaetano consecrated his order to it and adopted it as the emblem. This profession was done in the presence of Mgr.Giovanni Battista Bonziano, Bishop of Caserta, the special papal delegate for the occasion. It is said that the bishop arrived quite late and the church had meantime filled up with people all curious to know what was to happen and wanting to see the four courageous men who were about to renounce their comforts in life to embrace a life of poverty and pain. So humility this time was side lined to make their profession really public and solemn.

"EXPONI NOBIS": Original brief (24 JUNE 1524)

1. - Aim and intention of the foundation
"You, guided by God, wishing to peacefully serve and closely unite with him, are determined to submit to the three essential votes of poverty, chastity and obedience, to live together in clerical life, with the common habit of the clergy, to live in common and in common good and dedicate yourselves with humility and devotion to the service of God with the aid of His grace, under our immediate subjection and special protection and that of the Apostolic Seat. For that reason you have requested these your desires to us which we approve with our authority, and we pray that Divine Providence will help you in the accomplishment of your project.

2. - Approval.
We, who willingly approve the good desires of Christians, praise your project heartily, and, acceding to your pleas, we authorize you that, when you deem fit:

3. - Dispositions.
a) you choose to confer the three substantial votes of religious life, of poverty, chastity and obedience, and to profess solemnly into your order any secular or regular presbyter of any order;
b) to live together in the religious or secular places that you agree upon, or allow their proprietors, living in common and in common good, with the habit of simple clergymen and the name and denomination of regular Clergymen, under our immediate subjection and special protection and that of the Apostolic Seat;
c) to choose every year from amongst you, a superior who must be called provost, and elected for only three years;
d) to receive amongst you other secular clergymen of any kind, and also lay persons that, called by God, want to embrace this system of life, and, after a year of probation, to admit them to the profession of vows in front of your provost, into your own system of life;
e) to compose and to publish any statutes, arrangements and constitutions concerning that system of life and to the proper organization of your clerical life, and, once composed and published, to correct them and to reform them at any time, or to change them totally, or to make other new ones and adjust existing ones partially;
f) and, importantly, regarding the celebration and divine recitation of the Mass and other offices, modifications are allowed, proving that they are honest, reasonable and in agreement to moral convention and the Sacred Canon.
All of them, once composed, published, reformed, established, changed and ordered, and presented or displayed to Us or to our successors, will be approved and confirmed by Apostolic authority, and as such must be considered.

4. - Privileges.
With total deliberation and using the fullness of our Apostolic authority, we concede for all time, to you as to your successors, whom you accept, to serve and to enjoy, for all your communities and convents, all and each one of the privileges, spiritual and temporal exemptions, immunities, indulgences, faculties, liberties, authorizations, privileges, favors, concessions and graces that the Regular Canons of the Lateran congregation will enjoy and have .